Increasing text difficulty...how are you doing this?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by peachacid, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    Jul 8, 2014

    We're working on units for next year, and I'm trying to find good books for fifth grade for the end of the year. Pretty much every book I've thought of is now considered below a fifth grade level because of the new standards for text difficulty/complexity.

    How is your district handling this?? Do you think it's okay to just go ahead with books that are "too easy"? Or do you think a good way around it is to pair the "easy" fiction with more difficult informational texts?
     
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  3. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Jul 8, 2014

    I very successfully used Reading A to Z. They have quizzes and extended response questions for every book. My kids had to successfully read two fiction and two non-fiction texts before being bumped to the next level. They have either three or four levels for 5th.
     
  4. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I think what you do with the text goes a long way. You can take an "easy" text and do complex activities with it.
     
  5. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Jul 8, 2014

    I agree, as long as the text has enough support for the more complex activities.
     
  6. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Jul 8, 2014

    But at some point the text itself must be more complex in order for you and students to know how to parse through it for understanding. If they can't decode at a higher level or they don't understand more complex sentence structure and vocabulary, etc, a lower level text won't get them there. A lower level text might be used with higher level thinking skills, but it will never help a student get through texts. The only way to do that is to have students do some work at the upper edges of their ability level or have a lot of support and instruction learning how to comprehend more difficult language.

    I know I am a bit sensitive to this, but at our HS many of the novels used with the gen ed English classes are written at a 5th grade level and the idea of more complex tasks being done makes up for the lower reading level thus making it high school level reading. It doesn't help the students when they leave HS not able to read text that is above that level.
     
  7. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    a2z, I agree with you but I believe there's a place for those easier works. My sophomores start out with a dystopian unit. We read two difficult short stories. Then they read a young adult novel. We also do related nonfiction and a related essay. That novel has such a vital place. For so many of my students, it's the first book they've read in a long time. Many of them just use sparknotes. After that novel, they end up trying to read more as the year goes on. We read Night, Of Mice and Men, and a play. Last year we read Antigone. This year I'm thinking of switching to A Raisin in the Sun. Every unit includes poetry and shorter works. They each also have a corresponding essay.

    There is something to be said for the way my first unit works. We have to convince kids to read first. That is a battle I choose to fight in many ways, including hooking them on those books first. We also have dedicated SSR once a week. I put very few limitations on what they read for that time as long as it's a novel.

    Our students do read a fair number of difficult works-1984, Macbeth, Canterbury Tales, Scarlet Letter, Great Gatsby, etc... I think we have an excellent blend in our program.

    ETA: it's also been very enlightening looking at grade levels suggested. Grapes of Wrath is recommended for 10th graders. I did it my first year with seniors. It was so painful. I'd never do it with sophomores. TKAM is taught a lot in 8th grade, but I've found the kids just aren't ready to understand and discuss the issues raised.
     
  8. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Jul 8, 2014

    Are you talking about independent reading books or books that you read aloud?

    I think if you're talking about read alouds it might be time to do away with some of the traditional books you've read to that age group and find some books that might be a little more intense. This doesn't mean you can't enjoy the "easier" books now and then too.

    In my classroom I keep the complex books for my reading mini-lessons. But we're always reading a chapter book as a class, 10 minutes before lunch, 10 minutes after lunch, that kind of thing. I don't really pay attention to the level of these books at all. I choose based on the interests of my students. It's book we read for fun that is meant to show students that sometimes we do just read for fun. I believe it's important to create lifelong readers and it doesn't matter what books you use to hook them!
     
  9. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Jul 8, 2014

    I generally agree with this too. Especially if you're connecting the topics/theme in the text to other topics or themes the class has covered.
     
  10. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    Jul 8, 2014

    Our students read Chasing Lincoln's Killer at the end of the year. Using Lexile levels, it's a 7th grade level. The vocabulary is definitely up there, but the students really like it and comprehend it well.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Jul 8, 2014

    I guess my question ends up being, how do you become an independent reader of complex texts, both fictional and informational, if you never read complex texts? All of the "easy" reads with complex activities related to them are great to teach some strategies and might be fabulous for higher level thinking, but it doesn't give the opportunity to use complex texts and demonstrate ability comprehending them. I'm not saying to abandon all easier texts used to teach more complex skills, but the only way to make sure students can handle complex texts and parse the meaning from them is to actually use them.

    It can be done by using shorter but more difficult texts both fictional and informational. These texts should be across all of the core subjects.
     
  12. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Jul 8, 2014

    Have you looked at these books?

    1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    2. Drums, girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
    3. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
    4. Small Steps by Louis Sachar

    All 4 are outstanding and are a bit more challenging than most 5th grade books.

    If you are looking for true stories, I would suggest:

    A Shining Season by James Buchanon
    Iqbal by Francesco d' Adamo
     
  13. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jul 9, 2014

    I know we've had this conversation a while back, and I know this is a bit off topic, but the "text complexity" concept with CCSS is, in my opinion, one of the most poorly articulated and constructed ideas yet put forth in education.

    There's no question that kids need to read challenging material to understand challenging material, but how is that a new concept in education? And the idea that reading should be "above a child's instructional level" is a theoretically and logically flawed idea that is really meant to mean something totally different.

    Connecting these thoughts to the original post, I would continue to consider how each individual text challenges the class/reader in the desired area. I wouldn't worry about the absolute "reading level" of a book and whether that has changed with CCSS or increased demands for text complexity. The bottom line is that kids should be reading the most challenging material that they can handle at any given time, regardless of what the lexile, etc. is.
     
  14. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    Jul 9, 2014

    This is a good resource for nonfiction, current events:

    https://newsela.com/

    You can set up your classes, assign articles, and many of the articles have quizzes. You can also annotate the articles with your own questions or instructions.

    You can also use the reading level that is appropriate for each student since every article has numerous levels to choose from (I think it ranges from 3rd grade to 12th grade).

    Best of all, it's free.
     

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